byMehmet C. Oz, MD & Michael F. Roizen, MD, PreventionSep 21, 2012
Stress isn't just in your head. It manifests itself in your body in the
form of knotted muscles, painful digestion, troubled sleep and worse. To deal
with such chronic discomfort, you need to have a biological bag of
stress-busting tricks. Read on for fast ways to relax any part of your body—as
soon as tension strikes.
ABOVE THE SHOULDERS
Flex your face. Scrunch
tightly (grimace like someone is about to drop something on your toes) for 15
seconds, then release. Repeat several times. This repetitive contraction and
relaxation helps relieve any strain that you're holding above the neck.
Melt away muscle tightness.
The yoga move called Thread the Needle opens your upper back and shoulders.
Start out on your hands and knees, palms under your shoulders. Exhaling, slide
your right arm along the floor under your left arm, palm down, lowering your
right shoulder to the floor. Rest your right ear and cheek on the floor. To
deepen the stretch, try bending your left elbow as low as you comfortably can.
Hold for 30 seconds, then come back to the starting position on your hands and
knees; switch sides.
Suck it up. Deep breathing
stimulates your vagus nerve, which calms your brain and your stress response.
When you exhale, suck your belly button toward your spine to push your
diaphragm up so you empty all the air in your lungs. Then inhale deeply; it
brings a chemical called nitric oxide from the back of your nose and sinuses
into your lungs. This naturally occurring gas dilates the air passages in your
lungs and the blood vessels surrounding them so that more oxygen reaches every
nook and cranny inside your body.
Show your legs some love.
Downward-Facing Dog stretches your legs and energizes your whole body. Begin on
your hands and knees, with your palms shoulder-width apart and feet hip-width
apart. Tuck your toes under. While inhaling, lift your knees off the floor and
straighten your legs, lifting your hips back and up. Spread out your fingers,
pressing your palms flat on the floor. Keep your neck relaxed. Draw your heels
toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, then release back down to the starting
position while exhaling.
HANDS & FEET
Let your fingers do the fixing.
Developed in China thousands of years ago, acupressure helps you reduce
muscular stress by pressing different specific points on your body with your
fingers. To relieve tension, take the thumb and index finger of one hand and
apply a pinching pressure to the soft, fleshy web between the thumb and the
index finger of your other hand.
Heal, from heal to toe. A
good foot rub elevates levels of oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) and causes
arousal. Whether you're giving or receiving, first clean the feet with a warm
washcloth. Then use a soothing, lavender-scented lotion on both of them. Taking
one foot at a time, start with the heel and push up toward the leg, then pull
the heel down and work it from side to side. Apply firm, slow pressure with
your thumbs on the sole, and then knead the entire foot. Pull each toe for 10
seconds, then move the foot around passively to relax the ankle joint. When
both feet are done, rub the calves from ankles to knees.
Have more sex. It's just
designed to make you feel good—really, really good. And you don't need us to
tell you that those feel-good moments are wonderful ways to dissolve stress.
Consider these facts: Women who have sex regularly tend to live longer than
those who don't. And great sex makes your body feel (and be) the equivalent of
two to eight years younger.
Move it. Any type of
exercise will help reduce stress. Your body will love the endorphins, and
you'll notice more energy and lower stress levels when you make activity a
regular part of your life. If you're just starting, we recommend walking 30
minutes a day, every day. As you build up, you can integrate other routines
such as resistance exercises or cardiovascular activities including swimming or
Got back pain? So do 80% of women at some point. Try these three
stress-soothing yoga poses to loosen things up.
Stand with your heels about 3 feet apart, left foot pointing forward
and right foot pointing right. Inhale deeply. Raise your arms to shoulder
height with your palms down. As you exhale, lift your left hand above your head
with the palm facing forward. Simultaneously stretch your right arm out to the
right, then lower your right hand toward your right ankle; stop when you feel a
slight stretch along your left side. Look up at your left hand. Don't twist
your shoulders. Take five deep breaths, return to the starting position, and
switch sides. Repeat twice.
Get on all fours, knees under your hips and wrists under your
shoulders. Starting with your back straight, exhale as you lower your head and
round your back, tucking your tailbone. Look toward your belly button—this is
Cat. Inhale as you reverse to Cow by lifting your tailbone and looking straight
ahead. Repeat five times.
3. Extended Cat Stretch
Begin on all fours. Lift your right knee off the floor and smoothly
extend your right leg behind you with toes pointed. Inhaling, drop your
forehead toward the floor while bringing your right knee toward your forehead.
Return to the starting position, bringing your right leg back and lifting your
head. Repeat five times and switch sides.